What Can You Do With Your Ford V8

Nothing rude intended, I assure you. Simply that at my advanced age I take an interest in what other ancients do, or did, with their cars. Thus I am pleased to recall a rather nice piece of driving by an elderly Ford V8 owner. Granted not so many of these impressively inexpensive and notably accelerative 3.6-litre side-valve eight-cylinder motor-cars are about now as when this motoring feat took place. More's the pity, as those who saw them in action in the old mud-trials may agree. But among those who still own a Ford V8 here is something to think about, even emulate, although road improvements may have eliminated some of the effort involved.

The person I am thinking of was regarded as a pioneer when he undertook this personal test in 1934, to see how the Ford V8 compared with a Model-A Ford he had used previously. He was 1 W Stocks, who had by 1899 turned from cycle-racing to riding motor cycles at various cycle tracks, against competitors such as Charles Jarrott and S F Edge. He had ridden a 3½hp Ariel Quadracycle in the famous 1000-Mile Trial of 1900, and drove for Napier in the 1903 and 1904 Gordon Bennett contests before working for the De Dion Bouton Company whose cars he raced at Brooklands in 1908, etc.

When Mr Stocks set out to see what a Ford V8 could do he chose a round-Britain route, perhaps remembering his adventures during the aforesaid 1900 trial. He had hoped to take a companion with him and set off from London to Hull to collect his friend. However, this person being too busy, Stocks made his long drive alone, in his Ford coupe (BEV 986). Having left after 2 pm that day and covered 218 miles, Stocks stopped overnight in Hull, but the next day drove down to Land's End, via Birmingham and Wellington in Somerset, a matter of 426 solo miles. Then it was off to Carlisle, retracing the route to Wellington, then via Kidderminster and Preston (464 miles). From there, the next day, the Ford went to John O'Groats and came down to Lybster for good measure (456 miles).

The veteran driver found that the roads were mostly excellent, except for that from Edinburgh via Berwick to Newcastle, and that was not really bad. In 1934 caravans were beginning to appear in some numbers, often towed by cars worth far less than the camping homes, thought Stocks, and caravan camps had begun to appear. Sheep still roamed on moorland roads and signposting was still inadequate. Slower cars formed long queues, and the Ford encountered hump-backed bridges and culverts which it was allowed to roll gently over. So, on his fifth day, Stocks left for Edinburgh, via Aberdeen and Invergowrie (369 miles), and the next day accomplished the long haul from Berwick to Darlington, Boroughbridge, and Stamford, to Streatham in SW London, presumably to spend a night at home (399 miles). Then he was off to Margate and from there via Hove and Bognor, to Bournemouth (291 miles). Stocks commented that it would not be difficult to drive from Land's End to John O'Groats in 24 hours in a Ford V8 without becoming tired, inconveniencing anyone, or travelling at a higher speed than the majority of drivers, providing one kept going. In his case, without a navigator, having decided at Carlisle to go the full run, he took the Edinburgh road at Beattock in the dark instead of the Glasgow road to Stirling, thereby adding a few miles, and took a wrong turn out of Perth, having to use a narrow winding lane at Blairgowrie to get to Dunkeld. He had also taken 45 minutes over tea in Kidderminster. Stocks was, moreover, held up for at least 20 minutes between Alness and Bonar Bridge because the road was blocked by a van and a car which had collided, the car's owner at first refusing to move until the Police could inspect the scene — and they were many miles away...

That apart, the Ford was driven from Bournemouth to Chester on the eighth consecutive day (322 miles), from there to Nottingham via Holyhead, Llangollen, Aberystwith and Wolverhampton the next (427 miles) and on the ninth full day of his lonely marathon it was via Stockton, Scarborough, Bridlington, to Newport, Brough, Lincoln via Sleaford to Peterborough and by Norman Cross to Grantham to finish at Lincoln (430 miles). Still determined to see how the V8 compared to the Model-A he had tested for 2100 miles in six days in 1933, Stocks set out of the last but three days to Ross-on-Wye, going through Hunstanton, Cromer, Yarmouth, Ipswich and Warwick (407 miles). The next stint took him over to Cardiff, Carmarthen, Cardigan, Aberystwyth again, and back to London (393 miles). Then it was up to Barnard Castle and home, on the final spell (544 miles).

So in 12½ days the Ford's mileage was 5221, at just over 19 mpg of petrol and 100 mpg of Castrol XL, which was used rather liberally. The only trouble was when the starter refused to function once, cured by topping up the battery. The Ford otherwise ran sweetly and smoothly all the way, mostly in top gear from 10 mph onwards, even up hills. Not a bad show for a run of 12½ consecutive days that had started at a few hours' notice! If anyone still using a Ford V8 wants an unusual challenge, there it is, although today's roads and speed-limits have changed motoring from how Stocks found it.